Notes from ningyo editions studio and gallery

Edvard Munch’s Groundbreaking Contribution to Printmaking

Before Munch’s famous breakdown of 1909, the great Norwegian threw himself into printmaking with a fervor shown by very few of history’s great artists: not only as a master printmaker in the tradition of Rembrandt, Goya, and Cassatt (among others) but as an innovator of striking originality whose influence on subsequent printmakers still resonates, primarily but not exclusively in woodcut.

"In the Brain of Man" woodcut, 1897
“In the Brain of Man” woodcut, 1897


Munch took up drypoint in 1894 – the first of the mediums he was to conquer – for he seemed to have a natural instinct for all available printmaking methods, before taking up etching and lithography on a few weeks later.  Copper was probably the easiest substrate to work on as he could carry it around with him, along with needle in pocket, and draw on site at the gatherings of artists at Zum Schwarzen Ferkal (The Black Piglet, the famous watering hole to the Berlin Bohemia).  Drypoint also made sense as an introductory print medium for its simplicity and lack of chemicals.  Munch’s main focus, however, was on further developing his established motifs from his The Frieze of Life series (which included his most famous early works including The Scream, Jealousy and Puberty among others) in print form.  He seemed to grasp the medium immediately, with a delicacy that his patron Julius Meier-Graefe (the most famous German art-historian of the day, biographer of Dostoyevsky and the first to encourage Munch to try his hand at printmaking, publishing of Munch’s first portfolio of prints), when describing the drypoint version of Night in St. Cloud, wrote: “Like all decent engravings,” (in this case drypoints/etchings) “these prints appear colorful, without any color.  One must be blind – or highly cultured – if one cannot recognize this effect… all of them with the same subject as exceptionally good paintings, which one does not miss here.”

edvard munch, david curcio, death and the maiden, drypoint
Perhaps Munch’s very first drypoint, Death and the Maiden of 1894, with subject matter alluding to sexual attitudes propagated by his fellow tortured bohemians: the Polish writer Stanislav Przybyszewski and the Swedish playwrite/misanthrope August Strindberg.  The fetuses at the border would become an important theme in Madonna and other later print work. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Edvard Munch, Edvard Munch: Lecture, , , , , , ,

Black Valentine

“Love comes in spurts/in dangerous flirts/and it murders your heart/they don’t tell you that part.”

-Richard Hell

“Pleasure has already killed me, transformed and translated me… I am the drunken bee wandered into your household.  You may with courage eject me through the window; or by accident step on me.  Be assured, I’ll feel no pain.”

-Patricia Highsmith

At the beginning of this year I was commissioned by the excellent team of Anne Barrett and Todd Dunton of 30E Design to create a series of works to be sent out as Valentine’s Day gifts for clients, design firms, curators and magazines in New York.  This has become something of a tradition for them and is in its third year (with as many artists having participated – each year they choose someone new).  Suffice it to say that my first impulse was flattery to be chosen, and I readily accepted.  My second impulse was bemusement, as I see little in my work that could inspire the perfunctory, knee-jerk sentiments associated with love demanded of the day.  Of all “holidays”, there is no other that so inspires guilt and shame (in the single or coupled) and throws people (mostly men) into last minute panics of preparation around a day named for some saint (I say somesaint because there were dozens of St. Valentines and it is unclear which holds the honor of the eponymous day, though of all of them were known far more for their sacrifices and martyrdoms than for romantic love).  Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

The Memento Mori and Jane Rainwater’s Evil Flowers

“When the cities are on fire with the burning flesh of men, just remember that death is not the end.”

-Bob Dylan

“…and tell ’em to bring some of them sweet smelling roses/so they can’t smell me as we ride along.”

-old folk ballad (“St. James Hospital”)

Memento Mori roughly translates as “Remember you will die”. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Editions (from ningyo editions), , , , , , , ,

Joe Wardwell: If This Is It

And I know soon/ that the sky will split
And the planets will shift,
Balls of jade will drop/ and existence stop.

-Patti Smith


The readership has come to expect a certain level of quality in this little blog, though in referring to the “readership”, I actually have reason to believe that this really just includes myself alone (as a quick check on my WordPress dashboard stats confirm.)   As sad as this makes me (which on a scale of 1 to 10 is a 5) I feel like I must continue to post at least once in a while because what is more sad –  like a 7 or an 8 – is visiting a blog that has not been updated for a year or more.  You briefly wonder if the person has become very ill or even died, then determine that more likely he or she just got lazy: the passion withered and creeping realizations of the futility of the whole effort set in and eventually won out.  All maybe less sad than death, but still depressing, and each representing a kind of death in themselves.

Having said all of that, I give myself a pass to write a bit lazily on the excellent Boston artist Joe Wardwell, for which I believe he of all people will understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Editions (from ningyo editions), , , , , ,

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